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France records sharp rise in Covid-19 deaths as Europe tightens restrictions

Issued on: 14/11/2020 – 20:13

The number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases and deaths in France rose..

Issued on: 14/11/2020 – 20:13

The number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases and deaths in France rose sharply in the last 24 hours, according to French health ministry data published Saturday as a number of European countries announced new restrictions to stem a deadly second wave.

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France registered 32,095 new Covid-19 cases over the previous 24 hours to reach a total of 1,954,599. Deaths in hospitals in France from Covid-19 rose by 359 over the previous 24 hours to reach a total of 44,246 so far, according to French health ministry figures.

The rise in infections and deaths in France came as a swathe of new restrictions were announced or came into force in a number of European countries.

Schools closing in Austria and Greece

Austria on Saturday announced schools and non-essential shops would close from Tuesday, just two weeks after a partial lockdown was imposed.

"There are still many who say that infections don't happen at school, in shops or services," Chancellor Sebastien Kurtz told a news conference.

"But the truth is the authorities can no longer trace 77 percent of new infections, which means they no longer know where contamination is happening."

Greece, battling a saturated national health system, announced it would shut all schools after imposing a nationwide night curfew from Friday.

"Closing elementary schools was the last thing we wanted to do. This is a measure of how serious the situation is," Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said. Secondary schools had already been shuttered.

In Italy, the regions of Tuscany and Campania — of which Florence and Naples are the respective capitals — plunged into "red zones" of tough restrictions, which now cover 26 million of the 60 million population.

"There is no other way if we want to reduce the numbers of dead," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, as the country's death toll rose by 544 to 44,683, one of Europe's worst.

New anti-virus curbs also came into force in Ukraine on Saturday, with all non-essential businesses ordered closed for the weekend.

'Don't kill the economy'

There were protests in several Germans cities against enforced mask-wearing, with police saying they used water cannon to disperse nearly 1,000 people in Frankfurt.

France's Riviera resort of Nice saw 1,500 take to the streets to demand a more coherent set of restrictions to fight the disease.

Hundreds of demonstrators also turned out in Portugal, defying a weekend curfew imposed on seven out of every 10 of the population of 10 million.

The curfew bans driving on public roads after 1 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

"The pandemic is on and we have to be protected, but without killing the economy," said 33-year-old Carla Torres, who works in Lisbon's hospitality industry.

Poland became the latest country to report record figures with 548 coronavirus deaths over 24 hours, just days after the government decided against introducing a nationwide quarantine.

EU body expects favourable opinion on vaccines

Lifting the gloom, the European Medicines Agency added to growing hopes that an effective vaccine could be available soon.

The EU body said it expected to give a favourable opinion on a vaccine by the end of the year if test results proved positive. That would allow distribution from January.

But if the hurdles of testing and distribution are overcome, another challenge awaits: will people take a vaccine?

"My fear is that not enough French people will get vaccinated," French Prime Minister Jean Castex told Le Monde newspaper.

French restaurant and bar owners announced legal action against government measures which closed them from the end of October.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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